Colour psychology

Bernay Laity

Colour psychologist and creative consultant, Bernay Laity, reveals how we can use colour to motivate and help us fight nerves.

Raise Your Game: What is colour psychology?

Bernay Laity: It is the study of the effect of colour on the mind, the body and the emotions. I help individuals and businesses to understand the effects of colour, and how to express themselves and communicate in the world clearly and effectively.

RYG: How do we use colours and why are they important?

BL: Whether knowingly or not we use colour on a constant basis rather like a language. When we dress we select the colours that express how we feel. When we decorate, we pick colours to surround us based on how we want to feel in that environment. At a primal level colour can give us clues as to what something is and what it's made of - whether it's safe to touch or to eat.

RYG: What colours should we wear when exercising?

Handy hint

When creating revision notes or revision timetables, use coloured pens to draw attention to information that you want to remember.

BL: Great colours to wear when exercising are colours that really motivate and energize. We call these 'longer wavelength' colours. They are warmer colours such as red, which is a very energetic colour, orange, which is also very stimulating and fun, and yellow, which increases confidence and self-esteem.

RYG: Why is colour important for team kits?

BL: Obviously colour is important to visually differentiate teams, but colour can also have a very positive effect on the performance of a team. Here in the UK, three of our most successful football teams, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool F.C., wear red as their team strip. Red is a very 'physical' colour representing the qualities of courage, stamina, activity and strength.

Chelsea F.C., however, has blue as their team strip. Blue is the colour of the mind, relating to thought. Chelsea's strength may be, therefore, in their ability to 'out-psych' the opposition or develop a better strategy for play.

RYG: How can young people use colours to revise for exams?

Highlighter pensBL: You need to create the right environment and feel relaxed enough in order to absorb and retain the information that you are revising. Light blue colours are very calming for the mind and are good to wear or decorate your room in. Smaller amounts of yellow can be quite a stimulating colour and will help to support feelings of confidence and self-esteem.

RYG: How can young people use colours on exam day?

BL: Green is the best colour to wear or have around you on exam day, or in other potentially stressful situations. We call it a 'balance wavelength' colour because this colour relaxes and reassures us mentally, physically and emotionally. Again this is a primal reaction as the presence of green in the environment would have told us that there was food and water to be found.

Did you know?

In operating theatres, surgeons wear green gowns so that they can rest their eyes on that colour due to the balancing wavelengths.

Turquoise and blue-green colours are great if you have to do a presentation or an oral exam. The mix of blue, yellow and green in this colour can relax you whilst supporting your ability to communicate confidently.

Brown is a good colour for feeling grounded. Brown connects you to the here and now, rather than allowing your mind to wander. It is quite a serious colour and, for most people, is preferable to black.

Black can be a bit overwhelming and overpowering. It can represent a barrier or keeping things hidden, however this colour can suit some people.

RYG: Do the seasons effect how we use colour?

Did you know?

Much research has been done into exploring how people, and particularly blind people, can really sense colours through touch.

BL: Our personality and our physical colouring relates to one season only. So it is a good idea to identify the season you are aligned with and then wear the colours that suit these elements of your personality - no matter what time of year it is. People seem to then look you in the eye; they smile at you because you are not hiding behind colour, but using colour for yourself.

RYG: What is a mood board?

BL: A mood board is a great exercise to do. It enables you to gather in one place all kinds of information that tells you about the person you are.

What you will need:

  • A large piece of stiff card - an art suppliers will be able to sell you large pieces of foam board or card.
  • Over a period of time collect pictures from magazines, newspapers and books and for example, bits of fabric, paper, shells, twigs or anything else that you like or that appeals to you.
  • It can be for any reason, for example you might like the colour, texture or design of something. You might like the smell. Or it could be a picture or a photograph you find that might remind you of a place or something special that you are very fond of, or a representation of something that you like doing.

Mood board example

  • When you are satisfied that you have collected enough material, glue or fix all of it to your piece of card in anyway you like. It's important to understand that this is not about creating a work of art for its own sake, however, when it is finished it will represent the work of art that is you!
  • You will find when you've finished that anyone can look at your board and tell a lot about you, all the things that you like and that attract you.
  • You can use your mood board as an inspiration for all sorts of things, from designing something to decorating your own room, as there will be clues to the colours, shapes and styles that most appeal to you!

Mood board example


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